Top 2 Résumé Mistakes that Prevent Results (and How to Fix Them): Part 2

puzzle-320754_640Top 2 Résumé Mistakes that Prevent Results

In Top 2 Résumé Mistakes that Prevent Results: Part 1, I told you about my client, "Tina", who had applied for jobs online for two years without results before she came to me for help. In this second article, I discuss Tina’s second set of résumé mistakes.

In the first post, I explain how computers have completely changed the résumé and application game. Those of us with years of experience, like Tina, have wondered why we're suddenly not getting interviews.

I also described how to carefully use formatting that the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) can read and score.

The second résumé mistake that prevents results

How you use or don't use keywords is critical to ATS scoring you well.

Keywords may include technical skills, interpersonal skills, degrees, specific schools, companies, and anything else the employer thinks is valuable.

Even if the formatting is okay, when ATS don’t see the keywords they’re programmed to find, they don’t bring that résumé to the recruiter’s attention.

No one sees the résumé.

Even if you use some keywords, the program assumes that keywords appearing later are older, and scores them lower than those included up at the top.

Therefore, you must include keywords at the top.

How to find the right keywords to use

The problem is, you’ll never know what all the keywords are.

Still, you can guess at the most important ones.

If you have an ad, the best way is to discover these keywords in each posted ad.

If you don’t have an ad, you still need keywords for ATS, recruiters, and hiring managers to scan.

Look on,, or other sites for ads for similar positions. has generic job descriptions with a lot of skills, technology, and other keywords, too. There you’ll find plenty of keywords to use in your résumé.

How to use keywords in your résumé

First,  only use keywords that apply to you. You don't want to lie on your resume.

Then place the keywords where they'll be scored well. Here's how.

1. Use the keywords as shown in the ad or that you find for your field.

For example, if the ad abbreviates terms, include the abbreviations. If they write out words, you write them out.

The safest way is to both write out the term and include the abbreviation or acronym in parenthesis afterward. Doing both will give you more flexibility when applying to different jobs, too.

2. Customize your résumé for each ad or position and use keywords specifically for that ad or position.

This is important!

Too many people use one standard résumé and don’t use the specific keywords for the jobs they apply for.

Big mistake.

3. Do what professional resume writers do.

Use the keywords in multiple places.

Include them at the top of the résumé and again in brief job descriptions and accomplishments for each of your jobs, as appropriate.

Use them in education, continuing education, affiliations, technology, and other places where they fit and make sense.

The more times the right keywords show up appropriately in your résumé, the higher the likelihood that your résumé will be in the top 20 résumés the recruiter pulls to scan.

See my résumé sample page for résumés with keyword lists.

How I improved Tina's Résumé for the ATS and for humans

I found that Tina did not use the specific keywords in her résumé that her desired employers’ ATS were looking for.

So, I researched job descriptions in her field, and I loaded common keywords at up top in a powerful value statement showing how she can help employers.

Then, I listed more in a section of their own.

Finally, I used them appropriately in her job descriptions, accomplishments, and education.

Tina loves her new résumé!

She's excited and confident about looking for work again. She sees her own value and knows which employers to go after.

In fact, she even realized that she can apply for more types of positions at higher pay than she thought she could.

She easily customizes her cover letters and résumé keywords as needed for each employer and position.

Rate your own résumé

How well is your résumé formatted for ATS? See  Top 2 Résumé Mistakes that Prevent Results: Part 1.

Did you use keywords appropriately and liberally for your target position, organization, and field?

Let me know your questions in the Comments section below.

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